Do not use 100% Tea Tree Oil on your pet!

From Pet Poison Helpline:

Melaleuca oil, also known as Tea Tree Oil, is an essential oil. Tea Tree oil should never be used at 100% because animals can experience drop in body temperature, incoordination, weakness, lethargy, tremors and heart abnormalities. If your pet has a skin issue, please consult with your veterinarian about the proper treatment recommendations.

Happy Valentines Day from JoJo The Housecall Cat!!

Happy Valentine’s Day from JoJo, the best housecat a housecall vet could want!


Nutrisca Dry Dog Food Recall

Tuffy’s Pet Foods, Inc. Issues Voluntary Recall of a Limited Quantity of Nutrisca Dry Dog Food Because of Possible Health Risk



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – February 11, 2015 – Perham, MN – Tuffy’s Pet Foods, Inc. of Perham, MN is voluntarily recalling specific lots of 4 lb. bags of Nutrisca Chicken and Chick Pea Recipe Dry Dog Food because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. Tuffy’s manufactured the product for Nutrisca.

Salmonella can affect animals eating the products and there is risk to humans from handling contaminated pet products, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with the products or any surfaces exposed to these products. Healthy people infected with Salmonella should monitor themselves for some or all of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever. Rarely, Salmonella can result in more serious ailments, including arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation, and urinary tract symptoms. Consumers exhibiting these signs after having contact with this product should contact their healthcare providers. Pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Infected but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian.  No Salmonella-related illnesses in people or animals have been reported to date in association with these products.

The recalled product was distributed in the 4 lb. bags nationwide to distributors, brokers, retail stores, and internet retailers. The recalled product is limited to Nutrisca Chicken and Chick Pea Recipe Dry Dog Food in 4 lb. bag sizes, bearing UPC Code “8 84244 12495 7” (found on lower back of the bag). Products included in the recall are identified by the below first 5 digits of the Lot Code (found on upper back of the bag) and “Best by Dates” (found on upper back of the bag). No other bag sizes or other Nutrisca dog food, cat food, biscuits/treats, supplements or other products, are affected by this announcement.

First five digits of Lot Codes:
4G29P, 4G31P, 4H01P, 4H04P, 4H05P, 4H06P

Best By Dates:
Jul 28 16, Jul 30 16, Jul 31 16, Aug 03 16, Aug 04 16, Aug 05 16

The recall was initiated after a routine sampling program by the Ohio Department of Agriculture revealed the presence of Salmonella in one 4 lb. bag of product. The company is coordinating this voluntary recall with the FDA, and is issuing the recall action out of an abundance of caution.

Consumers who purchased the 4 lb. bags of the dry dog food product subject to the voluntary recall (as identified above) should stop using the product, discard it in a safe manner (example, a securely covered trash receptacle), and contact Nutrisca at the number below for further information.

For consumer information or questions regarding this voluntary recall, please contact Nutrisca at 1-888-559-8833.

Pet International Inc. Recalls 6” Beef Trachea Pet Treat

Pet International Inc. Recalls 6” Beef Trachea Pet Treat Because of Possible Salmonella Health Risk

(305) 591-3338

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — February 11, 2015 — Pet International of Miami, Florida is recalling 1500 units of 6” Beef Trachea Pet Treat because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. Salmonella can affect animals (i.e. dogs) eating the products and there is risk to humans from handling contaminated pet products, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with the products or any surfaces exposed to these products.

Healthy people infected with Salmonella should monitor themselves for some or all of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever. Rarely, Salmonella can result in more serious ailments, including arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation, and urinary tract symptoms. Consumers exhibiting these signs after having contact with this product should contact their healthcare providers.

Dogs with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets (i.e. dogs) will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Infected but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals or humans. If your dog has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian.

The 6” Beef Trachea Pet Treat was distributed to retail stores in the following Cities: Conifer, and Lakewood in Colorado.

If you have this product, use gloves and put in a double bag and throw it away as soon as possible. Do not touch the product in any way, and if you do, it’s recommended you must wash your hands immediately with an antibacterial soap.

The potentially affected product will pertain to a particular lot number, and are specific to a particular size of the pouch it’s sold in. Anyone having these products should verify the following:

Brand: Buster’s Natural Pet Supply,
Lot Code: 8501450,
Size: 6” Beef Trachea/ 12 Pack Plastic Pouch,
UPC Code: 8501450

No illnesses have been reported to date. We are still warning consumers that if any of the above information is on the package you have, do not feed it to any animals at all. It may be hazardous and should be disposed of immediately.

The recall was as the result of a routine sampling program by the Colorado Department of Agriculture and analyzed by FDA, obtained from Buster’s Natural Pet Supply in Conifer, CO. and found to be positive for Salmonella. The product sampled had a Buster’s Label on it, but was manufactured by Pet International. Buster’s Natural Pet Supply recalled the entire product from the two stores that the distributor sells it. The Pet International Inc. continues their investigation as to what caused the problem.

Consumers who have purchased 6” Beef Trachea with Buster’s Natural Pet Supply Label on it and are wishing to be refunded because of the recall, can take the product back to where bought it from, with receipt. A special form will be provided to be filled out as well. Both the form and the receipt are needed for the refund.

Consumers with any questions about the recall product may contact the company at by phone at (305) 591-3338 Monday through Friday 9:00am too 5:00pm EST or via e-mail at

Sidewalk Salt

We’re getting into the freeze-thaw-freeze part of the year, and that means sidewalk salt. This can irritate your pets’ paws, or make them sick if they ingest it. When you take them out walking, please protect their skin and keep them from eating the ice or snow.

Is there really a “safe” ice melt?

By: Caley Chambers, 2015 DVM Candidate

University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine
Extern, Pet Poison Helpline

Winter is quickly approaching and it won’t be long before the roads, sidewalks, and driveways are covered with chemicals used to melt ice (ice melts). If dogs aren’t eating them, they are at least walking through or playing in them!  Ice melts pose a problem with both oral ingestion and dermal contact.  There are many brands of ice melts on the market but the major ingredients are sodium chloride, potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, calcium salts (calcium carbonate, calcium magnesium acetate, and calcium chloride), and urea based products .  Before suggesting a safe ice melt to a client it is critical to know information about the ice melt’s ingredients.

Sodium chloride:

Large ingestions of sodium chloride can lead to sodium toxicosis and a dose of 4g/kg of sodium chloride can be lethal to dogs.  Mild ingestions lead only to gastrointestinal  upset such as vomiting and diarrhea, but dogs eating large amounts of this type of ice melt can develop  hypernatremia with central nervous system signs, dehydration, tachycardia, tachypnea, hyperthermia, and death.

Potassium chloride:

Increased intake of potassium, as seen with large ingestions of potassium chloride salts, is unlikely to produce sustained hyperkalemia unless renal excretion is impaired in the dog.  Potassium chloride, however, is a severe irritant and can cause gastrointestinal irritation to the point of hemorrhagic vomiting or diarrhea.

Magnesium chloride:

Ingestion of ice melts containing magnesium chloride can be irritating and result in gastrointestinal upset.  In addition, hypermagnesemia can occur with very large ingestions, but is unlikely to occur unless the dog has renal disease.

Calcium salts (calcium carbonate, calcium chloride, and calcium magnesium acetate):

Calcium salts are the most hazardous as they are the most severe irritants of all the ingredients in ice melts.   Ingestion of calcium salts can cause severe gastrointestinal signs as well as local irritation from dermal (skin and paws) contact.  Large ingestions of calcium salts are unlikely to increase serum calcium concentrations because multiple other factors are needed to absorb the calcium.


Urea based ice melts are generally the ones labeled as safe for use around pets.  Ingestion of urea usually leads to salivation and mild gastrointestinal irritation, but large ingestions may result in weakness, tremors, and methemoglobinemia.

All types of ice melts have a potential to be hazardous.  In general, most ice melt exposures are limited to gastrointestinal upset and local dermal irritation but there is a potential for more serious, life threatening side effects.  It is important to educate clients on the potential risks of exposure and inform them of proper storage and use so that exposures can be avoided.

Holiday plants – are they toxic to your pet?

Here is a great article from Pet Poison Helpline:

Deck the Halls with Holiday Plants – But Are They Toxic?

By Charlotte Flint, DVM
Staff Veterinarian at Pet Poison Helpline

Holiday Christmas Puppy in PresentChristmas is a busy time of year for us at Pet Poison Helpline!  Of course, we receive many calls about pets eating chocolate and other treats, but we also answer many questions about the toxicity of the festive plants used to decorate the home and given as gifts during the holiday season.

Christmas trees – Curious cats and dogs are often delighted to explore the Christmas tree, which usually will be a variety of spruce, fir, and pine.  Ingestion of tree needles can be irritating the mouth and stomach, resulting in vomiting, diarrhea, and drooling.  With large ingestions there can be potential for obstruction of the GI tract and possible perforation as the needles do not digest well.  Ingestion of artificial tree material also can cause GI irritation and possible GI obstruction if enough is ingested.  When pets drink Christmas tree water, mild vomiting and diarrhea are possible, and if Christmas tree preservatives are added to the water, usually it will still only be mildly upsetting to the GI tract.

Poinsettia – It is a myth that poinsettias are a highly toxic plant.  Poinsettias contain a milky white sap that can cause mild vomiting, drooling, and diarrhea when ingested by pets, but more serious toxicity is not expected.

Mistletoe – There are several species of mistletoe, and store-bought mistletoe plants will commonly have the berries replaced with plastic berries.  In most cases when a small amount of mistletoe is ingested, only mild vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea develop.  Very large ingestions of mistletoe have the potential to cause cardiovascular and possibly neurologic signs, though this occurs rarely with pets.  Ingestion of plastic berries potentially could cause intestinal obstruction.

Christmas cactus – Christmas cactus is considered a non-toxic plant.  Mild vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea can occur with ingestion, but serious toxicity is not expected.

Amaryllis – Many people enjoy growing showy amaryllis blooms from bulbs during the Christmas season.  When pets ingest the plant’s flowers and leaves, vomiting, drooling, and diarrhea most commonly occur.  The bulb is more toxic and ingestion of the bulb, especially in large amounts, can possibly result in weakness, tremors, seizures, and changes in blood pressure.

Holly – Ingestion of holly can also cause vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and lethargy when ingested by pets.  All parts of the plant can cause GI upset if ingested.

If you suspect your pet has been exposed to a potential toxin, contact your veterinarian or call Pet Poison Helpline right away at 1-800-213-6680.

Fear Aggression in Dogs from Dr. Sophia Yin

Most dogs who bite, do so out of fear—a fear that develops commonly due to lack of socialization. What do you do if your dog’s fear has progressed to the point where he bites? Here’s my article with advice to clients’ questions and my tips for dealing with dogs that bite. Have you ever had a dog bite? How do you handle this situation? 

Once Fear or Reactivity is Recognized, Take Action Before the Behavior Progresses to a Bite

Generally fearful dogs start off by trying to stay away from the things that scare them. But as they are confronted with scary situations repeatedly, they can learn that offense (barking, snapping, biting) is their best defense because it makes the scary people go away.

To see the body language of fear/anxiety, see Dog Bite Prevention Week: Poster on Body Language of Fear and Aggression and Dogs Bite When Humans Greet Inappropriately.

Treatment of Fear, Reactivity, or Aggression Focuses on Two General Approaches.

One approach to dealing with fear and aggression towards people is to train the dog to associate unfamiliar people with good things in a systematic/graded manner. This process is desensitization and classical counterconditioning (DS/CC),and it involves exposing the dog to the fear-inducing “stimulus” at a level where she barely responds and keeping her in a happy state, instead of a fearful or reactive state, by pairing the experience with things the dog likes (such as food, play, toys). The goal is that, as we systematically increase the level of the stimulus (how close the people are, how quickly they move, or how scary they look) while keeping Fido in a happy emotional state, the dog will systematically come to associate the scary people with this positive emotional state permanently.

Now, a lot of people try this method and have only partial success because they omit a few vital points.

  • The first is that you must stay below the level of scariness where Fido barks, lunges or has any major reaction. This is referred to as staying below threshold. That usually means that the visitor must pretend Fido doesn’t exist. That is, stand sideways to the pet and look away as if the visitor is actually ignoring Fido even though he’s tossing treats. Ideally Fido just looks like he’s happy to get food.
  • The second key point is that the food or fun thing must be occurring the entire time the scary person is near. For instance, if the scary person is tossing small treats, the treats must come at a rapid enough rate that Fido doesn’t have a ton of time in between treats to decide that he’s still scared. Usually that means starting with treats coming rapidly at first and then slowing the treat rate down.
  • Treats also have to continue long enough so that Fido decides that the person is safe. That may take just a minute or it may take several visits, depending on Fido. In the latter case, when the visitor is running out of treats, the dog should be removed from the room or the visitor should leave.
  • The visitor also must make sure she doesn’t move too close too quickly or move in a quick or threatening manner since these can make the dog react defensively (e.g. going above threshold). (For tips on how to approach correctly so you aren’t accidentally threatening: refer to the How to Greet a Dog book and poster)

The second method for modifying behavior is to train dogs to perform appropriate replacement behaviors that are incompatible with the fearful behavior. This is called operant counterconditioning. The replacement behaviors we train must be ones the dog enjoys so that Fido is at the same time learning a positive association with the situation. For instance, when a dog is fearful, we can train the dog to focus on us and engage in fun behaviors such as heeling and other focus games that we have taught through reward-based training. Why do we have to be careful to avoid methods that use force or punishment to train or maintain the replacement behaviors? Say we train the dog to focus on us so he doesn’t bark or lunge and we do so using choke chain or pinch collar corrections. The dog may learn to focus but will do so out of fear of getting a correction. As a result, the dog is not likely to develop a positive association with the scary person/object/environment. The dog may outwardly look more controlled, at first, but side effects such as greater reactivity and fear are likely to occur in the near future. The dog may hide that he’s scared or that he wants to react, prompting us to put him in a situation where scary people are even closer to him. Then, at some point, he might not be able to contain himself and may break out in a reaction more severe than before.

As with the DS/CC we described in method 1, always start at a level where you can keep the dog happy and focused on you, keep the dog focused the entire time, end the session and remove the dog from the situation before he’s tired or you run out of treats. The better your technique and ability to train in a systematic fashion the faster the training will go. Technique is the difference between taking 10 minutes and 10 months to see a huge change. (For more information on technique, read Dog Training Classes Can and Should Be More Than Sit, Stay, Stand)

To learn more about:

Understanding How They Learn and The Principles that Guide Learning (Timing, Motivation, etc):

Why We Tend to Avoid Punishment and Aversives and Dominance Theory

Treatment Must Also Address Impulsivity

These general approaches are pretty straightforward and, with good technique, you can get dogs through situations relatively easily. However, it turns out there’s more to these situations than just using the DS/CC techniques in the reactive situations. In fact, the first thing that we often have to do is address the dog’s impulsivity (lack of impulse control) and his lack of ability to look to the owners for guidance, especially when he’s scared or highly excited. How are these things important? Impulsivity is the tendency for animals to perform behaviors without first thinking and evaluating the situation. Dogs with high impulsivity or low impulse control tend to rush towards items they want (food, people, dogs) and react in an extreme manner when excited (jump, whine, pace, bark, lunge). The more they practice acting impulsively, the more likely they will react impulsively when scared. These dogs also have an inability to look to their owners for direction, especially when they’re scared or distracted.

Luckily, one program can address both of these issues. In my version of the Learn to Earn Program where dogs are required to automatically say “Please” by sitting for everything they want – every bit of kibble, petting, praise, attention, getting their leash on, going out the door—dogs learn that they can have what they want if they ask politely by sitting and looking at their owners for permission. In this intensive program, dogs can exhibit huge changes within a week. The trick is that the humans need to learn to reward the dog’s good behavior consistently and must be aware of their every interaction so that they don’t accidently reward unwanted behaviors, such as jumping, whining, and pushing for attention. So, at the same time, this program teaches owners how to give the right body signals and cues that their dog naturally understands and how to actually provide leadership and guidance through skill rather than force. As an added benefit, once owners have these skills they are better bonded to their pet and their pet feels more comfortable looking to their owners for guidance in the scary or highly exciting situations.

The Step-by-Step Approach:

Now that you know some of the general approaches. Here’s the basic order of approach.

  1. First, keep safe: avoid all situations where the dog is fearful or aggressive until you have gained the skill to work productively in these situations. And when you do work with your dog with visitors and unfamiliar people present, you may choose to avoid having the visitors or unfamiliar people give your dog treats. It can be unsafe to rely on other people to give treats because the visitor may do something inappropriate such as moving too close, staring at, or suddenly trying to pet the dog. Or because they toss the treat too closely to themselves and the dog comes closer and then realizes he’s too close for comfort and snaps. Instead, you, the owner, can give the dog the treats or have the dog perform exercises where he focused on you.  Also, it’s best to have the dog on leash, even on a gentle leader, snootloop or halti head collar. Make sure you’re holding the leash short enough that even if your dog does lunge towards people he can’t reach them (e.g. he can only lunge a few inches). For added safety, some dogs will need to learn to enjoy wearing a muzzle. You can cut a hole in the front of the muzzle to give treats. (See Training Dogs to Love Wearing a Muzzle)
  2. Second, identify all other situations where your dog is fearful or highly aroused (e.g. uncontrollable barking, whining, lunging) and address these issues too.  This is important because fear of objects and other things can heighten fear of people. For instance, if your human-fearful dog gets scared of a loud noise or object in the morning and then goes for a walk, he’s more likely to react fearfully to people on his walk. Similarly if your dog practices rough, overly rowdy behavior, then, when he’s fearful, he’s more likely to display that fear with the same rough, overly rowdy behavior.
  3. Avoid the other fear and high arousal situations until you have the skills to modify the behavior in these situations. Generally you can gain some skills quickly and just start working in the situations at the distance or intensity that you can handle. For instance, if your dog gets scared around inanimate objects on walks, when you see the type of object he might bark or lunge at or run away from, you can work at the distance where you know you can keep him happy and focused on you.
  4. Take your dog through Dr. Yin’s version of the Learn to Earn Program so that you can systematically and quickly develop the ability to provide direction for your dog and so your dog can quickly develop the ability to control his impulsivity. Some dogs only take a few days to a week while others may take a month or two—the biggest variability is the human’s awareness of what they are doing. If owners could be 100% consistent in rewarding desired behaviors and removing rewards for unwanted behaviors, they’d have a nearly perfect dog in just a week or two but for many owners it takes weeks to become aware enough to be 80% consistent. The benefit of the Learn to Earn program is that even if you never reach professional level skill, you’ll still be way better at communicating with your dog and moving in ways that make your signals and intentions clear.
  5. DS/CC to the specific fear, reactive, and/or aggressive situations. Generally, this means going about your day in a normal manner, but, whenever you pass an unfamiliar person, you have your dog perform the fun heeling games so that he can focus on you while learning good things about the people that pass by. The better your technique, timing, and ability to use your body movement to help keep the dog focused on you, the more successful and efficient you’ll be. Similarly when guests visit, set the situation up so that you can keep Fido focused on performing replacement behaviors and then you separate him from the guests if he’s not completely comfortable and under good control.
  6. Also, DS/CC to any handling type procedures that are an issue: In many fear or reactivity cases, the dog is also difficult for being handled in certain ways (such as for toenail trims or grooming). Generally I recommend starting with classical DS/CC where the owner pairs the procedures with food and then increases interval between food until food is no longer needed (See Training a Dog to Enjoy Toenail Trims). Once less food is needed, I often switch to rewarding a specific behavior such as holding still for 10 seconds while being groomed and increasing the amount of time the dog must perform the good behavior to earn the reward.

This is the overall approach to the fearful or reactive dog in a nutshell. It’s all about addressing the dog’s overall ability to look to you for guidance, and your ability to be aware of his emotional state and to reward desired behaviors and remove rewards for unwanted behaviors. Because the techniques do actually involve skill and technique, unless your dog is extremely easy, you will most likely need coaching. But now you’ll know what to look for and you’ll be aware of the common mistakes to avoid.

Pedigree Recall – expanded.


At PEDIGREE®, we care about all dogs and their safety and well-being is extremely important to us, and to our mission – to make a Better World for Pets. For that reason, we have announced the extension of a previous voluntary recall of PEDIGREE® Adult Complete Nutrition dry dog food products due to the possible presence of a foreign material. The voluntary recall still affects 22 bags shipped to Dollar General across four U.S. states, but it now is being expanded to 55-pound bags of PEDIGREE® Adult Complete Nutrition dry dog food products sold in Sam’s Club in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.

This recall is being expanded to Sam’s Club in the U.S. because some of the affected production lot was originally said to be held in inventory but was instead released to consumers, which has necessitated the expansion of the recall. We are confident no other packages or retailers are affected by this recall.

Bags may contain small metal fragments, which could have entered the packages during the production process. The foreign material is not embedded in the food itself, but may present a risk of injury if consumed.

We encourage consumers who have purchased affected product to discard the food or return it to the retailer for a full refund or exchange. We have not received any reports of injury or illness associated with the affected product. The lot codes indicated below should not be sold or consumed.

At Mars Petcare, we take our responsibility to pets and their owners seriously. We sincerely apologize for this situation and encourage you to reach out to us at 1-800-305-5206 from 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. CST if you have questions.

This voluntary recall affects two packages sold in the United States only. No other PEDIGREE® products are affected, including any other variety of dry dog food, wet dog food or dog treats. The affected packages are:

  • 55-pound bags of PEDIGREE® Adult Complete Nutrition dry dog food sold at Sam’s Club will have the lot code432E1KKM03 printed on the back of the bag near the UPC and a Best Before date of 8/7/15. See below for a list of Sam’s Club stores.
  • 15-pound bags of PEDIGREE® Adult Complete Nutrition dry dog food sold at Dollar General stores will have the lot code432C1KKM03 printed on the back of the bag near the UPC and a Best Before date of 8/5/15. See below for a list of Dollar General stores.
23100 10944 PEDIGREE® Brand Adult Complete Nutrition dry dog food in 15 pound bags
23100 10731 PEDIGREE® Brand Adult Complete Nutrition dry dog food in 55 pound bags

Dollar General
Affected 15-pound bags were sold between August 18 and August 30 at Dollar General stores in:

  • Arkansas:
    • Perryville
    • Cabot
  • Louisiana
    • Baton Rouge
    • Calhoun
    • Hineston
    • Jonesville
    • Pineville
    • Slaughter
  • Mississippi
    • Magnolia
    • Vicksburg
  • Tennessee
    • Memphis

Sam’s Club Affected 55-pound bags were sold between August 14 and August 30 at Sam’s Club in:

  • Michigan:
    • Comstock Park
    • Muskegon
    • Jackson
    • Roseville
    • Saginaw
  • Saginaw
    • Kokomo
  • Ohio
    • Dayton
    • Holland
    • Lima

Original Firm Press

Information taken from the FDA.

Keep your pet safe on the 4th of July !

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Fireworks and animals do not mix. More pets go missing on the 4th of July then any other day of the year.
PLEASE keep your pets safe!
*Keep them home and keep them indoors.
*Provide a safe place for them to go to if they get scared by the noise.
*If you must take them outside, make sure they are on a leash or in a crate.
*Also, this is a good time to make sure your pets are microchipped and that all information is up to date as well as their I.D. tags.

Fireworks Anxiety!

By Kathy Diamond Davis
Author and Trainer


Fireworks Phobia


Fireworks can turn holidays such as the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve into miserable nights for dogs. To some extent this fear is genetic, but it’s also learned. Dogs bred and trained to flush and retrieve game for a gunner cope well with these noises, as do police dogs. Some dogs aren’t capable of a comfort level with fireworks, but a lot can be done to make this fear less of a problem for any dog.


Unlike thunderstorms, fireworks are set off intentionally. You may choose not to go so far as to buy fireworks and have an assistant detonate them in a legal location while you train your dog—but you could, if you wanted. You can train your dog when you know other people will be shooting fireworks, and you can set up your training location at a distance from the location of the fireworks. This predictability is a powerful advantage in training.


As in dealing with other things that frighten some dogs, your best approach is to work with your dog before you see any signs of fear. Ideally, set up with your dog at a distance from the fireworks so the noise will not be loud, but the dog can see that a person is causing the noise. This connection helps many dogs by taking the mystery out of it.

Food treats work with greedy dogs, and games that your dog loves may be even more powerful in helping the dog mentally tune out the noise. When a dog acts out an instinctive behavior that has been built through training and experience, the mind and body are strongly immunized against fear and pain.

The more you and your dog train together to make your interactions satisfying and strongly focused, the more powerful these interactions will be in conditioning your dog not to worry about the distant noises. Retrieving, tossing a toy for the dog to catch, or (with the right dog and handler) tug-of-war are the kinds of person-and-dog interactions that work as powerful antidotes to fear.

Move the interaction between you and your dog a little closer to the fireworks action a bit at a time. Be careful not to progress quickly enough that the dog will be fearful. Judging the dog’s state of mind is a delicate process. If you misjudge and advance too rapidly, go back to a distance where the dog shows no fear. Work at that distance a long time before advancing again. Slower is faster in this type of training. Triggering fear is a major setback, so try very hard not to do so.

Unless you plan to set off fireworks where your dog will have to be at your side, it’s best to avoid working a dog next to detonation. The noise can damage the dog’s ears, and there are other dangers from fireworks, too.


Don’t leave a dog outdoors alone when someone is going to use fireworks. Besides the risk of a fear being created in the dog, many dogs will flee a fenced yard in panic and be lost.

If you aren’t able to have a full-focus training session, keep your interactions with your dog upbeat, happy and hearty. Don’t use a pitying voice or touch that gives a dog reason to be afraid. Act happy and confident, and reward your dog for confident behavior.

Ear infections can make noises more painful. Take good care of your dog’s ears. Pay special attention if the ears are not erect, or if the dog has ever had an ear infection. Dogs tend to conceal their pain as a survival instinct, so it’s important to make a real effort to know your dog’s physical condition.

Fears are often contagious from one dog to another as well as from people to dogs. If you have a dog who fears fireworks and you get another dog, working with the fearful one can help prevent the new dog from developing the same fear.

Extreme Cases

The same measures used for extreme thunderstorm phobia can help dogs who panic during fireworks. A veterinarian or veterinary behavior specialist can help with your behavior modification program and can decide whether or not medication is appropriate. A dog-appeasing pheromone diffuser may be beneficial.

The right confinement area is important during fireworks, especially when the family cannot supervise the dog. This is even more critical for the phobic dog. Dogs tend to like dark, quiet and enclosed areas to rest in.

Best Case

With a little forethought, you have a good chance of preventing severe fireworks phobia in your dog. The dog can learn to look forward to more dog-friendly aspects of the Fourth of July, such as cookouts and family games.

Date Published: 4/17/2004 11:51:00 AM
Date Reviewed/Revised: 04/17/2004